Review-Yin and Yang-Liars' League HK


By: Joyce Wong

As I stepped into The Fringe Club for my first ever Liars’ League, I was greeted by a roomful of people mingling and waiting in blue ambient lighting for a night of good storytelling. Indeed, throughout the evening six different storytellers lit up the jazzy joint with short stories based on this month’s theme, “Yin and Yang”. 

Very much a Chinese concept, it was nice to see the theme interpreted beyond the cultural and philosophical by an imaginative selection of works – a traveler’s encounter with a mystical tattoo artist (Chiaroscuro by Liam Hogan), a man’s hallucination of his alter ego (Only by James Cole), a pair of English twins’ proclamation against their namesake (Something to Prove by CT Kingston), a love confession for a girl with unequal legs (Off-balance by Sarah Evans), a dream for alternative intimacy (Strange Bedfellows by Paul Blaney), and the reconciliation of a couple in need of their complementary half (Har-V by Randall Bruce Wilson). Though the stories were all very different, common ideas of balance or doubles threaded through the selection.  

The night got started with Sean Herbert’s reading of Chiaroscuro. This was my favourite text of the night. The story told of a traveler’s strange experience with a tattoo artist in Hong Kong during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Though completely naked, the artist was inked all over, as if she were clothed. The traveler at once apprehensive and mesmerized by this strange woman ends up getting inked by her through the transference of skin. I liked the story’s tinge of magical realism, even Chinese folklore, and its air of a traveler’s tale that gets told and retold. It was also interesting how a Chinese theme had inspired an Italian-titled short story with a local Hong Kong context. Sean Herbert’s radio play-style performance was also fun to watch, with punchy stomps for thunder and light taps to the microphone for pitter-patter. 

Another highlight was Jonathan Nazer’s reading of Har-V. It was the last text, to close off the night and the story read as a first person monologue about Harvey’s realization that he needed the yin of his yoga-practicing girlfriend Sylvia to balance his own yang. Full of hilarious innuendos, candid dialogue and some genuine heartfelt moments, the story seemed only natural to be read aloud or the protagonist would have died on the page. This was no doubt because of how much Harvey (and Sylvia actually) came to life with Nazer’s brilliant and unashamedly overt performance (a few nice sun salutes and some risqué pelvic action). The story won the most laughs from the crowd in the entire night and it was nice to end on a light-hearted note. 

The other performance highlight is Saffron Chan’s reading of Something to Prove. In this story about a pair of English twins unfortunately named Yin and Yang by their 90's hippie dropout mother, Chan had to read as both characters. She came onto stage first fully costumed as Yin, a sporty tomboy who refuses to conform to the feminine and calm connotations her namesake. She then changed directly onstage, stepping into heels and pulling out a dress beneath her hoodie, to become Yang, who, as the complete opposite of her sister and also her masculine name, recognizes their mother’s whimsical ways in allowing the twins to be different. Chan’s performance was thoroughly engaging with costume, props and most importantly, an animated voice that made you forget about the speaker for moment and believe in the presence of the twins. 

I hadn’t experienced much storytelling since the days of my mom’s bedtime stories, one visit to the Liars’ League and I had gotten six wonderful tales. I know I’ll definitely be returning to next month’s reading convention for another dose of short stories before a good night’s sleep. 

Yin and Yang has now closed. Liars' League performs the last Monday of every month. For more information, click here.

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